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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Churchill Downs has canceled all live racing on Thursday, and moved live racing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to 6:30 p.m.
That move comes as a result of expected triple-digit temperatures on those days. As representatives of Churchill Downs explain, the track is not taking any chances with the high temperatures.
Churchill Downs says the real danger is not so much to the fans, but to the horses.
The seats were empty at Churchill Downs on Wednesday because of a scheduled day off. But it's the expected triple-digit heat that prompted the track to scratch live racing on Thursday.
"We can take care of people in the stands, but on the racetrack, [there's] not much of a place to hide when the sun's beating down and the temperatures [are] 100-plus," said Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher.
Churchill Downs has dealt with bad weather before. A year ago, damage from a tornado caused a one-day cancellation. And this past Oaks Day, the infield was evacuated because of a violent storm. But heat?
"Can't really recall in recent decades a cancellation because of hot weather," said Asher. "From a veterinary standpoint, it scares us to death when it's this hot."
Veterinarian Foster Northrup says the track made the right decision.
"Horses and humans, it's the same danger. When they overheat, they're more prone to heat stroke, which can be a life-threatening problem in the horse," said Northrup.
Churchill Downs stables some 1,400 horses on the backside, and whether they're racing or not, they must be protected during this heat wave.
Most stalls are shaded and have fans to keep the horses cool.
"After they train in the morning, we give them a bath. Sometimes we give them an alcohol bath, which cools them even further. And you mainly watch their electrolyte levels," said Northrup.
Churchill Downs says it will monitor conditions closely.
"The owners and trainers who have the horses, the riders who are depending on purse money for their economic success for the summer and, of course, the fans who come here. All those people come into the equation," said Asher.
Churchill Downs will simulcast races from other tracks on Thursday.